511 Traveler Services improvement delivers
e-mail, text messages for personalized condition reports

ITD added new options to its model 511 Traveler Services system that increase personalized access to highway- and weather-related information and improve mobility for Idaho drivers.

Improvements build on the department’s addition of individualized route selection and reporting introduced last year. Drivers have the option of designating a route by starting and ending point and receiving computer updates for changing conditions along the segment.

Effective Feb. 10, they can receive condition reports directly to their e-mail account or cell phone by text messaging, explains Tony Ernest, ITD’s travel services coordinator. Users who sign up for the free route reporting option now can designate a beginning and ending time to receive automated reports. They also can designate the days of the week for those reports.

The e-mail and text reports are available for any segment of highway on the state system, Ernest explains, including interstates, U.S. highways (such as U.S. 95 or U.S. 30), or any state highway. It is not available for local roads and streets for which ITD has no jurisdiction.

A commuter from Caldwell to downtown Boise could request automated reports for eastbound Interstate 84 and the Connector (I-184), beginning at 7 a.m. and ending at 8:15 a.m., and westbound from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, or on other specific days.

The 511 system would generate a report at 7 a.m. and at 4:30 p.m. and at any time after those beginning times if conditions change. Similar reports could be requested for highways throughout the state.

“The new option gives drivers more control over the information they need to plan their trips better and to improve safety,” Ernest said. “We want to ensure that drivers have the information they want, when they want it, as quickly and accurately as possible.”

Text messages and e-mails will include a link that provides more detailed information about conditions along the route. The reports are available as long as an incident or condition remains in effect; they expire when traffic flow or conditions return to normal.

Signing up for the segment reports and messaging services is free. The only data required is a user’s name and e-mail address or cell phone number to deliver the messages. Users can select as many routes as they desire, and options can be turned on and off easily.

Some cell phone service limit the number of text messages and charge additional fees if that limit is exceeded. If route report users designate multiple routes or segments and specify long reporting periods, the number of text messages will increase. Keeping the parameters simple will help control the number of reports.

Ernest warns motorists to avoid retrieving the information while operating a vehicle. Reading text messages or e-mail messages should be done before getting behind the wheel or be delegated to a passenger.

The goal for the new option is to improve highway safety, and that can be accomplished only if drivers devote their full attention to the highway, Ernest insists.

Idaho joins Kentucky as the only states on the CARS 511 system to use the e-mail and text messaging option.

Published 2-24-2012